Could the Rocky Mountain News spend another month-plus in limbo?

Anyone hoping for quick answers from an E.W. Scripps conference call held this morning (and noted previously in the blog "Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple on the Paper's Future: 'We Have No Idea'") wound up disappointed. As detailed in typically complete fashion by Rocky business scribe David Milstead, the chat for investors and Wall Street types, which featured Scripps CEO Rich Boehne, did intersperse some local updates amid dismal overall figures (Scripps' revenues fell 6.2 percent in the most recent quarter as compared to the previous year). For instance, the firm plans to write down the value of its investment in Prairie Mountain Publishing -- a partnership that pairs it with MediaNews Group, the Post's owner, and includes the Boulder Daily Camera -- by $10.9 million. The shocker, though, is contained in Milstead's first sentence: "The E.W. Scripps company said today it expects to announce its plans for the future of the Rocky - which lost $16 million in 2008 -- before the end of the first quarter on March 31."

Boehne confirms that the Rocky is continuing to bleed, and bleed badly. So why the delay? He didn't say this morning, and even his answer to a question about the cost of shutting down the paper can be read two ways: "We're not far enough along to give you an exact number. It's not clear to us which way we might go and what the exit might be," he said. Of course, Scripps could decide to make some kind of move at any point between now and the end of next month -- but it's already waited weeks longer than most press observers expected. In the meantime, the Rocky, its employees and its readers continue to twist in the wind.

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